85(R) Squadron

Number 1 Elementary Flying Training School

The new 3 Sqn / 1 EFTS sign proudly displayed on the 3 Hangar wall. Ian Herbert

History of 1 EFTS at Church Fenton

On 21st September 2005, it was announced by Defence Minister Don Touhig that there was to be a major shake-up in the way that RAF Elementary Flying Training (EFT) is organised. Until recently, all University Air Squadrons (UASs) were responsible for a share of the RAF's EFT requirement, training both University students during the course of their degree, and also Direct Entry (DE) student pilots.

From now on, however, University Air Squadrons are no longer responsible for RAF EFT, and all RAF EFT is now carried out at three bases - RAF Church Fenton, RAF Cranwell and RAF Wyton. These three bases are each home to a squadron of No. 1 Elementary Flying Training School, with Church Fenton being the home of No 85(R) Sqn, part of 1 EFTS. 85 Squadron has been stationed at Church Fenton twice in the past, initially with Hurricanes during WW2, and latterly with Meteor NF12s and NF14s during the 1950s.

The new squadron is staffed by regular military QFIs, and all students are regular military students.

Changes for the station have been minimal, with only a little increase in flying activity. There are now 10 Tutor aircraft based on the station, which are shared with Yorkshire UAS and 9 AEF.

Unfortunately in 2011, following the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, 85(R) Sqn disbanded, due to the reduced requirement for trainee pilots. This reduced the number of aircraft on station to five.

Crown Copyright

Sqn Ldr G. Pell

No. 1 Elementary Flying Training School operated the Grob Tutor T1. This aircraft is a largely composite basic trainer with a piston engine and a non-retractable tricycle undercarriage. The aircraft are owned and operated by Babcock, with the RAF paying for hours flown and so avoiding the initial purchase and following maintenance costs throughout the life of the aircraft. The fact that the aircraft are privately owned means they are civil registered (G-XXXX) as opposed to military registered as the Bulldog aircraft that preceded them were.
Below can be seen some air-to-air photos of Tutors, kindly sent to me by Squadron Leader G. Pell, OC YUAS. Click to enlarge:

With many thanks to Squadron Leader Gordon Pell, Officer Commanding Yorkshire Universities Air Squadron, for his invaluable help when compiling this page.